The stage is set for Syracuse’s Thursday Night matchup with NC State. Both teams are 3-2 and haven’t played since Sep. 28. As SU head coach Dino Babers said in his Monday press conference, this is a swing game for both teams.
This week, the key for Syracuse seems pretty simple: get the ground game going. More specifically, get senior running back Moe Neal in a groove early. That will be a tall task against a stout Wolfpack defense. Through five games, NC State is the eighth best team in the country against the run. That’s impressive.
Why isolate Neal in this situation? Well, two things. First, he’s the main workhorse for the Orange. It’s been that way since the opening bell in Lynchburg, VA. Second, he’s playing one of his final collegiate games in his home state of North Carolina. Neal grew up in Gastonia, North Carolina.
Just last week, the fourth-year back became the 23rd Orange player to reach 2,000 yards on the ground.
Now, he has the chance to lead Syracuse to a big mid-season win against NC State. As Neal knows, Carter-Finley Stadium can get rowdy. Many believe it’s the best home-field advantage in the state of North Carolina. That place will be fired up for a primetime game.
Given the rowdy crowd, SU quarterback Tommy DeVito will have his hands full. Let’s face it, DeVito hasn’t looked great against good competition this year. Hopefully for the Orange, that changes in Raleigh. Why not help him out with a strong running game?
Here’s how Syracuse wins this game: the banged up Orange offensive line comes together and propels Neal to his best game of the season. That would be quite an accomplishment against a Wolfpack team that hasn’t let anyone run on them this season.
Can Neal and the Orange change that narrative?